Are you safe?

Dave Sherman wrote in his blog:

Some people seem to think that school administrators have gone overboard with school security. They think we are spending too much time and money to secure our schools, when we should really be spending our resources on teaching and learning only.

Is this what you think, too? Are we just paranoid that something bad may happen in our schools because there have been a handful of school shootings in the last decade? Should we stop all this security talk? As I write this, I am preparing for our very first lock down drill with our students (see previous post). Is it all a waste of time?

In a report from the NCES they start their findings by saying:

Our nation’s schools should be safe havens for teaching and learning, free of crime and violence. Any instance of crime or violence at school not only affects the individuals involved but also may disrupt the educational process and affect bystanders, the school itself, and the surrounding community (Henry 2000).

Many statistics show that violence in schools are decreasing. The chart below from the NCES report shows the percentage of students ages 12–18 who reported criminal victimization at school during the previous 6 months, by type of victimization:


In talking to adults they believe wholeheartedly that children are at a much higher risk of being a victim of violence today than when they were they were kids. What is the truth? I ask you…do you feel safe in school? Have there been times that you did not feel safe? What were those times. I am looking for some really honest answers to start a discussion. The adults in the building and society have ideas that aren’t always based in reality. What is reality? Is worrying about security a waste of time? Are you safe?

Who I want to be…

Wow…this is so scary.  For any family member of my students or visitor from another state or country….this post, and the similar one on the student blogs takes a lot of courage.  So go ahead, press play.
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Why aren’t we watching the Space Shuttle?

Do you know the space shuttle launched today? My daughter and I just spent the last thirty minutes watching youtube videos of other launches and astronauts in zero gravity (would love to show them tomorrow but o’yea, youtube is banned in school). Isn’t it amazing that we are blasting people into space and no one cares? Watch some of the videos. Be amazed.


How do we change schools to prepare kids for Earth 2.0?


I have had the chance to make six formal presentation on implementing Classroom 2.0 tools (wikis, blogs, podcasts). I have had countless individual conversations with parents, teachers, business people, and complete strangers at parties. Can you guess the one group of people who seem to have the least amount of interest? Teachers. Parents and business people (obviously for the most part they are one in the same) seem to be just as excited as I am about implementing these technologies in the classroom…but not teachers. I spent a lot of time this summer on how to present classroom 2.0 tools to teachers and could not find that magic answer. I did just hear an interesting quote on a podcast:

“It must start with the individual. In order for people to use web 2.0 technology they can’t start in the classroom. Forget about the classroom. If you try to teach people how to use blogs, and they don’t understand how to use blogs or how to use wikis or how to use podcasts in their own personal lives, if they do not understand how these technologies change who they are as a learner and how they go about educating themselves and being a member of our society, then trying to get them to do it in real time in front of twenty-five kids with all the technology issues and support issues that are going on is a bar we will not get under.”

I wonder if any presentations I do in the future for teachers should skip the connection to the classroom and just focus on a personal use of these tools.  At this point I do not understand why educators do not keep up to date with changes in educational practices like a doctor would.  Can you imagine going to a doctor that practiced medicine just as they did twenty years ago?  As my knowledge and usage of the tools increases,  and I become more intensely focused on using them to help kids develop 21st Century skills, I question whether my ability to communicate with teachers on the importance of classroom 2.0 skills has actually decreased.  Please send me the secret answer.  All classroom should look like the one in the picture above.

My answer to “How more laptop carts would improve instruction?” A bit rushed…but…

Alright…I finally got around to writing my response to the email I received about why we should get more laptops…

From: _____________

Sent: Thu 10/4/2007 1:55 PM

To: Moran Teachers

Subject: Laptop carts

The Bd. Of Education has asked how more laptop carts would improve instruction. If anyone has any thoughts they would like me to share, please email them to me.

Dear ______,

Thanks for sending out this email. As you know, I am a HUGE supporter of laptops and would love to see our district move to be a 1:1 district.

I do not know whether to be worried that the board is essentially asking will laptops help and should we get more? It is hard to even fathom that people in the 21st Century are asking whether or not we should inject more technology into the system. The question shows a real lack of understanding of current trends in education, student learning, and general world business trends. The question should not be should we get them, but how soon. Can you imagine an engineer, a doctor, an architect, a veterinarian, a oceanographer only being able to use a computer for 45 every couple of weeks and to use it they had to sign-up in advance of when they needed it and then have to travel to the “computer lab” to use it? Every creative job requires heavy use of computers yet we still do not offer them to the kids and when we do they are being used as textbooks and notebooks.

On the other hand…bravo to the board for asking the question. I am proud of them for staring the conversation that should be taking place in every classroom and administrative office…ok…enough of the soap box. My tidy, somewhat rambling, answer would go something like this…I should add that one must examine other issues besides just answering their question directly so I hope they can make the connections in my writing…if I had more time I could tidy it up but enough days have passed since you requested it and I fear missing a due date. Feel free to use any of the below thoughts…sorry for rushing through this!

We need the best educated people in the world and the most digitally advanced kids possible. Technology gives kids the chance to do something they could not do before. They can innovate, create, and collaborate in ways simply unimaginable with a textbook and pencil. Kids are inundated with technology all day long and go into class and presented with dry reading and lecture or fake make believe assignments. With laptops the world opens up and they become excited about learning — motivation increases. Textbooks give you a western idea of world–imagine communicating with the people in the country you are researching. Imagine taking the price of 40 textbooks and installing a plasma flat screen TV on the wall of the classroom. When it is time to learn about China they could turn around and stare a Chinese classroom in the eyes and learn about the country from people who live there—abut events in occurring there in real time.

Laptops bring a new way to interact with the world and explore– collaboration and interpersonal skills simply flourish when used properly. Students become more organized and it is easier to turn things in on time. Engagement is high – you can walk into a classroom and instantly see kids learning. The laptops make it so much easier to pace and differentiate to meet the needs of all students. They help kids retain a positive attitude as to what school can be. Will teachers use the tech to collaborate? Innovate? Create? To do the things that don’t just make use of the computer as a $1000 notebook and pencil? I do not know. I do know that if there are no computers there is zero chance of them being used to give the kids the 21st Century skills they need. A textbook simply will not every again give the kids what they need to know to be successful to solve the problems that they did not create and don’t yet exist and compete for jobs in careers that have not even been thought of yet – but in a couple of years the board will probably spend between $6000 and $7000 to supply just my team with new books. The tools that are being used in the classroom right now are preparing kids for a time that has passed us. They will not be able to learn, create, and innovate with the old tools and be able to stay a part of the creative class that will rule the economy of the 21st Century. They will become working slaves to all the others who stay ahead of the pack by turning up the right side of their brain and become entrepreneurs using new technology. Our kids must use learn to use the new technologies not as 21st Century pens and pencils with which to study history, but as tools to create and innovate, with which they can make history.

I would be more than happy to do a presentation on how they can be used and the “Classroom 2.0” tools that are available, and the 21st Century skills that will be needed by our students. They must be aware of the changes that are coming, and how different our students are from those of previous generation. The words podcast, blog, wiki, google docs, etc should be a part of every board of education’s vocabulary. Without this knowledge the board is simply doomed to lead our students to a future with no hope of success in our interconnected world. It is not about using technology, it is about creating and collaborating with it.

I did pose this question to my kids on our blog and here were some responses:

“I think that laptop carts will help improve instruction because it will help individual instruction and help to work together as a class. I think that by having more laptop carts it will be easier to have access to computers than just having a computer lab.”

“Laptops are technology,

Technology is the future,

and we are the future.”

“I believe that we could use more laptops because it would be easier to access computers in the classroom instead of going to the computer lab or the library. Also more laptops would be better because we wouldn’t have to request time in the library or the computer lab. It would be easier for students to just grab a laptop and get started right away.”

“I think that if there were more laptop carts there would be more instruction. I think that the way you are teaching class this year is great and if we got to use laptop carts each day we would be able to interact with our fellow students. Also we wouldn’t have to tie up the library or the computer lab. There would be more computers for everyone to use.”

“More laptop carts would improve instruction because currently what we can do on the computer is really limited. There is an unimaginable amount of information out on the internet that could help improve our education and learning, but it’s held back from us because of the shortage on good and working laptops in our schools. When kids get to work on the computer it immediately sparks their interest and therefore helps improve their quality of work just because of the fact that they are interested. Kids actually look forward to going to social studies class because of the technology used but more kids would probably get the opportunity to do more things on the internet if their were more laptops.”

“More laptop carts would increase the amount of collaborating we do in class. Instead of having to go to the computer lab or library, the laptops would be right there to use. I know that I always look forward to social studies class because we use resources such as the wiki and blogs. Easy access to laptops would make people excited about class, and maybe it would get other teams interested in using tools like blogs and wikis.”

It’s 2007…Do you know where your students’ heads are?

I stumbled upon a video today in a blog post written by Jeff VanDrimmelen. Whenever I see one of these videos I wonder if teachers are just simply out of touch with how people learn, or if it just simply takes too much time, or is it just too hard to provide 100 students with a rich learning experience that meets their needs and desire. I can’t figure it out. Instead of reinventing teaching to meet the needs of our kids we spend so much time trying to improve textbook learning.  It’s like puttting a DVD player and a laptop in a Model T Ford — it doesn’t improve it’s performance, it just makes people feel better while puttering around in a vehicle that won’t get you to success any faster than before it was “upgraded.”

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There is a high quality download of the video available.

How would more laptop carts would improve instruction?


I was recently sent an email that asked the following question:

The Bd. Of Education has asked how more laptop carts would improve instruction. If anyone has any thoughts they would like me to share, please email them to me.

I am going to respond and I would like to include thoughts and quotes from students as well as mine. Let me know what you think!

What if schools treated students like Google treats it engineers?

I recently read a post from a blogger Gxeremio.   He wrote:

Maybe we’re trying too hard to make education meaningful, when people left to their own devices will naturally seek to learn things that are meaningful to them. I know, I know.. state-mandated testing means there are a lot of things we HAVE to teach, whether they’re meaningful to students or not. But perhaps, by adopting the model of Google Corporation, public schools could still manage to teach the arbitrary core curriculum while it also creates and empowers learners.

Google is well known among job-seekers for its incredible perks. You can get a taste of some of what they offer by watching this video clip, originally aired on Oprah. Google employees generally, and engineers especially, enjoy an amazing array of distilled love from their employer: free meals, on-site health care, generous vacation time, shuttle service, and intramural athletics, to name just a few. These benefits combine to encourage employees to work harder, longer, and better because they want to, not because they have to. Of course, it all helps to attract and retain top-notch employees, too.

One particularly cool benefit for engineers is “20 percent time.” They must use 20% of their work week to develop projects and follow passions that were not assigned to them by their superiors. What a cool idea to increase motivation and produce some outside-the-box innovation.

184276946_edff3b9064.jpgCould we do this in school?  Ok, maybe not the free meals and more vacation.  But howabout the 20% of each week to explore something you love.  Hmmmm….now we still would have to get through a mandated curriculum.  What if we cranked for four days each week and on the fifth day we  used  Friday to “develop projects and follow passions that were not assigned to them.”  Makes you stop and think doesn’t it.  What would this look like in school.  Could it be done?  What would the administration say?  What would parents say?  I know my answer, and I am sure I know the student’s answer.  A chance for students to work self-directed on something that they are passionate about — sounds like common sense to allow it to happen.  That creativity and passion would surly drip over into other areas of their life lifting their achievement across the board.

Been Caught Speeding…


I listened to a podcast from David Warlick. He is is a god amongst educational podcasters. Mention his name to any one that uses technology in education and they will know his name. The podcast I listened to he recorded at the 2007 NECC convention. He described it as:

Certainly the richest and deepest educational technology conference, probably in the world, NECC offers more to more people about new technologies in education than any other event, and it proves each year to be exhaustingly exhilarating experience — almost a high.

I desperately want to go to NECC. Next year it is in San Antoni, TX. It would cost about $700 to attend. Please save your pennies for me, I am currently looking for a way to raise the funds to attend. In the podcast Warlick talked to a bunch of the ed tech bloggers that attended — I knew every name and felt like I knew them personally. I have read all that they have written and listened to everything that they have podcasted. They are all a huge inspiration to me even though I have never met them. It would be so inspirational and educational to be in their presence. When they were all talking many of them mentioned that they did not go to many of the conferences sessions. One person had not even been to one (this was recorded on the last of four days!). They talked about they got more out of sitting and talking to one another, reflecting on one another’s thoughts. It reminded me how important it is to stop and reflect…and how we have not really done it this year. Class seems to be rushing from one thing to another and there is not a pause in between to reflect on how things are going. I think we need to work more time for discussion in class — slow down a bit. Maybe I am the only one feeling this…am I getting old? Maybe you aren’ t feeling the pressure of completing one podcast but I am feeling the pressure of completing 50+ from the entire team. Just because you can go fast doesn’t mean you should — you miss the scenery. You see more but understand less. I do have one idea for how to possibly do this. It will be the topic of my next post…I hope.